The confidence I portrayed by walking away was to show them I wasn’t afraid of their threats. In as much as I knew how dreadful they looked, I also knew for a fact that the threats I made were just empty echoes to their ears. I had to admit that I had no solid action to back it up, as well as I was also defenseless and fragile to them.
I realized the mess I had gotten myself into. I needed someone to talk to urgently.
I strolled back into the school and strode to the cafeteria. Like I expected, Mimi, Oluchi and the guys were already there, including Bauchi and Eagle, the guys who had offered us a ride back home. They were all chatting away in merry when I joined them.
“Whereʼve you been?” Oluchi asked.
“I was about calling you now,” Mimi chipped in.
I remained silent and managed to force a smile as I exchanged pleasantries with everyone. They all kept mute after the greetings and fixed their gazes on me.
“What is it?” I was forced to ask after it went on for some time. Their stare was almost killing me.
“We heard about your dad’s condition,” Simon said.
“Was that the reason you were acting sober during the exam?” Oluchi interrupted.
“But it’s been settled!” I quickly added.
“How is he feeling now?” Boma asked from the other end. Our eyes met properly for the very first time that day.
“He’s getting better,” I replied, almost blushing. He got the hint and smiled back with a wink. I smiled back too.
That little gesture we made seemed to have attracted their attention towards us. Bauchi was the first to notice.
“Nawa for una o!” he said in an Igbo-like accent that made us crack into laughter.
“If una wan love, at least make una go under tree wey dey outside na!” Eagle added, sending another wave of laughter. I could barely contain myself as I struggled to regain my composure.
“Don’t mind those two, that’s how they are,” Kingsley said.
Just then, someone walked up to us. Our moods changed all of a sudden. Kingsley in particular hissed away and redirected his gaze elsewhere as she approached us.
Contrary to our expectation, she wasn’t alone, neither was she coming our way. She held hands with a tall macho guy who followed from behind and then hissed as she passed directly in front of us, taking a table at the opposite edge.
Our eyes widened in shock as we faced our gazes towards Kingsley.
“Why una dey look am?” Bauchi said.
“Help me ask them o!” Kingsley chipped in, not even looking concerned at all.
“Isn’t that Jovita?” Mimi asked, blinking her eyes repeatedly.
“Shey eye dey pain you?” Eagle tried teasing her, but nobody laughed. It wasn’t a joke this time.
“For all I care, that girl is too childish for me.” Kingsley said as he took the last gulp from his beer, plainly looking unbothered.
“I don’t get it. Your girl is sitting right there with another man in your two korokoro eyes and you don’t care?” Mimi asked again. Kingsley laughed.
“What do you want me to do? Fight over her?”
“I didn’t say that, but at least you should be worried a bit. If you don’t mind me asking, what really happened between you both?”
“I’ll explain along the way. For now, let us leave here first,” he suggested.
We took a last glance at Jovita’s table as she chatted away with the macho guy and left the cafeteria. The guys offered to give us a ride and spend some time with us before leaving.
Along the way, precisely in the car, we tried bugging Kingsley to tell us what happened but he urged us to be patient till we got home.
When we finally got to my place, we were lucky to have the power active. It was a full house. The first thing Bauchi and Eagle did was to switch on my Home Theatre and insert a disk they brought from the car into it, turning up the volume very loud.
I couldn’t complain or say anything, as it could mean being rude to their perspective.
Due to the fact that we had only one chair in the room, we had to make ourselves comfortable on the beds while Simon took the chair with Oluchi seated on his laps even though there was enough space remaining.
“You ladies have a nice place here,” Kingsley complimented.
“I’ve told her before you,” Boma added.
“Thank you. I appreciate.” I gestured politely.
“So like you said, we have finally arrived now. What was it you wanted to say?” Mimi questioned, interrupting us.
“Oh, that’s right. Where was I?”
“You said she was too childish for you.” Mimi repeated.
“Exactly,” he exclaimed, “that is the only word that qualifies her. She’s too childish.”
“But how?” Mimi asked.
“It was one particular Sunday like that when I got a call from her, saying she would be coming over that day. I didn’t know she was already on her way and I had my guys with me then who were my colleagues from school. We were all wasted due to the heavy liquor we took the previous night, and the room was a big mess too. Even the babes my guys brought to spend the night were also wasted,” he sighed and continued, “So after much much, Jovita finally came. I was on boxers only when she entered and met my guys and the girls preparing to leave. She acted cool with it and said nothing negative. That one went well.
Where the trouble started was when she opened my drawer in search of a peg and found a black lingerie and a pantie in it,” he stopped.
Bauchi and Eagle burst into laughter. Boma couldn’t help it too. It wasn’t funny at all.
“I don’t know what’s funny to you people now,” Oluchi hissed.
“Leave them o!” Mimi shrugged.
“Like seriously, this guy no be man!” Bauchi said, still laughing.
“I dey tell you!” Eagle concurred.
Probably to avoid their scornful mockery, Kingsley stood up and excused himself from us. From the look on his face, one could easily tell he wasn’t in a good mood.
“You see what you guys have caused?” Mimi scoffed.
“You don’t joke with everything you hear; not all the time.” Oluchi reprimanded.
It gradually dawned on Bauchi and Eagle that they were at fault for Kingsley’s countenance.
“Let us meet him outside.” Bauchi said, referring to Eagle.
“I’ll come with you.” Mimi said, leaping off the bed.
• • •
When they left, Boma snuggled close to me and placed an arm over my shoulder. Oluchi and Simon retained their exact position, doing whatever they were doing.
“You didn’t call me last night,” he whispered softly into my ears. His whisper felt cold.
“Neither did you.” I mumbled softly.
“I wanted to but, after what happened, I… I just…” he stuttered.
“Let’s say I just lost my liver,” he chucked. I laughed.
“So underneath that tough shell, you are just a normal weak man?”
“I won’t call it weak. I would call it shy,” he said, blushing sheepishly.
“Boma, do you know you’re acting like a woman?” I chuckled; “I’m supposed to be the shy one here, not you.”
“I know but I can’t help it. It’s like…” he was about saying when Oluchi interrupted.
“Fifi please can you help me with a needle?”
“I don’t think I have that, but I have a stack of pins; would you manage?”
“Whether it’s needle or pin, all join!”
I leaped up off the bed and walked towards my wardrobe where the pins were kept. Coincidentally as I stretched my hand to pick the pack, I mistakenly hit the polythene bag containing the envelope and the phone as it fell off and spilled out
Oluchiʼs jaw fell ajar, followed by Simon, followed by Boma.
Their faces all had expressions of shock as they stared intermittently at the pile, especially that of Oluchiʼs who even seemed more shocked than they were.
They kept exchanging glances between each other and facing back at me.
“What is that?” Simon asked, pointing at the polythene nylon as he moved closer to me.
I had thought he was referring to the bundles of cash and had wanted forging up something to tell them until he advanced further and bent on his knees as he inspected the nylon thoroughly.
He spilled out the content which were white T-shirts with the APC logo imprinted on them.
“Fifi, what is this?” he repeated, holding onto one of the shirts as he stared me deep in the eyes. I was unable to speak all of a sudden, searching for my lost voice.
“Can’t you talk?” he raved fiercely.
Just then, Bauchi, Mimi, Eagle and Kingsley came inside. They had been laughing on their way in but stopped abruptly at the scene they met.
I could see the obvious shock on their faces at the sight of the bundled cash, excluding Mimi who just stood rooted to her spot.
“Are you deaf?” Simon continued, sounding impatient.
For some reason, I still couldn’t find my voice. As much as I tried, the words failed me terribly.
The next thing I knew, a thunderous slap befell my cheek in a swift wooze. I almost fell from the impact if not for the wall behind me that aided my stance. Mimi screamed out loudly and ran towards me, shielding me from Simon’s view. Likewise Boma and the other guys rushed towards Simon and held him back.
“Are you crazy?!” Oluchi yelled, hitting him by the chest repeatedly.
“Tell her to talk!” he kept shouting at the top of his voice, trying to resist from their grasp.
It took a punch from Boma to his belly to calm him down, sending him to his knees as he breathed for air.
“What’s your problem?” Boma snapped angrily, about to throw another punch as Bauchi held his arm and signalled him to calm down.
I stood transfixed with my hand caressing my left cheek, still not believing what had just happened. Mimi held me by my shoulder and walked me outside as Oluchi followed behind, cursing and swearing after Simon.
A tear drop trickled down my face as we got to the backyard and settled on a bench there, with Mimi and Oluchi consoling me repeatedly over and over, even if I already told them I was fine.
“But why? Why would he slap me?” I kept soliloquizing silently to myself, expecting no answer in particular.
“Babe, take it easy, wipe your tears,” Oluchi kept comforting me.
“I don’t get it. Why should he lay his hands on me?” I kept asking, feeling my temper raging.
Just then, the door to my backyard creaked open and Boma came out, alone.
He stood at a distance at first, watching me intensely for a while before proceeding forth.
“Let me talk to her,” he said, referring to Mimi and Oluchi.
Without hesitating, they excused us quickly. Then he sat by me.
He placed a thumb on my cheek and caressed it lightly, wiping off the teary liquid gently.
“I’m sorry about that,” he muttered soberly, looking dejected.
“But why? Why should he do that?” I kept questioning.
“He had a reason.”
“What reason? What reason enough to lay his hands on me?”
“Fifi, youʼll have to be honest with me for these questions I’m about to ask you,” he began, looking serious. I slowly nodded.
“How did you come across such huge amount of money?” he asked.
“How does that relate to the issue?”
“Answer me first!”
“It was given to me by some people.”
“A woman and a guy, I don’t really know much about them.”
“For what reason exactly?”
“They want me to campaign for them, even when I already said I’m not interested. Their ideal plan was for me to snitch up on you guys and pretend to be one of you, while giving them inside information at the same time,” I explained.
“How long has this been going on?”
“For a while now. Iʼve been getting threatened by them recently. Even just this afternoon, they held me at gunpoint with a pistol inside their car, offering me another sum of money which they said was from a senator to me but I refused.”
“Where did this happen? Around the school?”
“Yes, just this afternoon.” I nodded.
“Why didn’t you tell us?”
“It skipped my mind! I probably forgot.”
“You forgot something like that? Fifi, do you know you are toying with death?”
“I am not understanding what is happening here. What is your actual connection with these people?”
“They are our rivals,” he said, “that was why Simon did what he did immediately he saw that you had their material and logo with you. He thinks you are working for them.”
“So even if I was, the best way to settle it was to slap me?”
“Get up letʼs go inside,” he exclaimed, “You’ll have to repeat everything you just said now to them so they can know which side you stand on.”
• • •
A few moments later after I had followed Boma inside, I explained everything I knew to the hearing of everyone as they listened keenly to what I had to say, especially Simon who seemed even more interested.
“So in summary, what you mean is that you don’t know these people in question?”
“Yes, I donʼt.” I answered honestly.
He gave me an awkward look and shook his head irritably.
“Boma, Bauchi, Kingsley and Eagle, make una meet me outside,” he exclaimed and stood up. “Including you, Fifi.”
“I’m coming with you.” Oluchi interrupted.
“Stay back!” He ordered authoritatively in a commanding tone. She literally melted to his deep bass voice and uttered nothing thereafter.
I followed them outside of the compound to where the car was parked and we all took seats in it. It started with a grave silence at first until Simon looked at me awkwardly and then faced his gaze towards the guys, making eye-contact particularly at Boma, before facing me once again.
“I’m sorry.” He simply said, avoiding to make eye contact with me. I sighed and faced my gaze elsewhere. Boma patted me softly by my arm with a pleading look, as well as the other guys glared soberly too, as if asking me to reconsider.
I gave a deep sigh and looked directly at Simon.
“I forgive you.”
He twitched his head with a nod and muttered a silent “Thank you,” still avoiding eye contact with me.
“So what do we do now?” Eagle asked, sounding impatient. “If we don’t teach these guys a lesson, theyʼll come for us sooner than we expect,” he added.
“Not to mention, Fifiʼs life is also at stake here!” Bauchi chipped in.
They both seemed to be referring to Simon, who on his own part, seemed lost in thought. He heaved a sigh and cleared his throat, letting out a slight scoff.
“Let’s wait till tomorrow,” he simply said, turning to face me.
“Fifi, make sure nothing happens to that envelope and the phone pack either. Am I clear?”
“It would serve as our evidence against them in case of emergency cases,” he added.
Just as he was about saying something more, I received a phone call from Akosua, my sister. I picked it up and instantly regretted doing so.
The news hit me like a flash. I shivered!